God's Healing Waters
Do you ever feel like you are just waiting for someone to lift you into God’s healing waters? What if once cleansed of your ailment, you could return again and again for further assurance of healing, a spiritual refresher?
In this Gospel reading from John, we read about a man crippled for over 38 years. He has long been waiting to experience the healing power of God. This Gospel not only challenged me to consider the remarkable healing power of Christ but also His compassion and mercy. The Gospel of John, Chapter 5 begins: One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?’” The sick man answered him,“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Dependence On What
After reflecting on this conversation between the man and Jesus, it occurred to me that there are aspects of my finances dependent on my employer, my health reliant on my doctor and my spiritual well-being conditional on my priest; ultimately the most important dependency is on Jesus. It is not that my faith in Jesus negates the need for the others: each is an integral part in attaining that particular well-being I desire. With Jesus, as John’s Gospel illustrates, so much more is possible, including the miraculous:Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk. Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
There is Always More with Jesus
At first, today’s Gospel appears to be all about the physical. However, as so often happens when we encounter Christ, there is always more. We see Jesus’ desire for a deeper connection with us. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more,so that nothing worse may happen to you.” We see this same occurrence with the man lowered by his friends through the roof to be healed by Jesus. We see again and again how in healing physical maladies, Jesus demonstrates the authority given to him by God. It is this same power that allows him to forgive sins.
A Personal Analogy
For the last year, I have been battling Atopic Dermatitis aka eczema on my hands. Eczema is an incurable and chronic ailment. I feel so defeated with those words – incurable and chronic. There are days when the itch or pain is almost more than I can bear. In those moments, I am reminded of the long suffering people seeking Jesus’ healing in the Gospels. Jesus uses their suffering and healing to teach those healed as well as those witnessing the healing, I prayed for an insight into my current condition. It was no coincidence that I would have today’s readings to ponder.
Comparing Reconciliation and Chronic Illness
There are remarkable similarities between the eczema on my hands and the sin on my soul. Both need healing. For my hands there are remedies such as medicines and creams; for the soul there is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I saw other connections:
I often feel embarrassed and ashamed of my hands and want to hide them, much like being caught in the shame or guilt of sin and wanting to hide from God. Covering up (either my illness or my sins) does no good in bringing about healing. My external healing means exposing the skin to the healing properties of the sun, transforms them from broken and useless to whole again. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, through the healing grace of the Son, radically transforms my soul, healing my spiritual brokenness, making me whole again.
Broken Skin, Broken Relationships
The hardest part of losing full use of my hands has been communicating with my daughter. She is profoundly deaf and our family uses American Sign Language to communicate. Since my hands started to bother me last June, I have sometimes felt as if I trying to talk with laryngitis. I am acutely aware that I don’t speak to my daughter as often as I should or as thoroughly due to this.
I lament that my disease has, at times, robbed me of the close relationship my daughter and I are privileged to enjoy. To be fully healed like the man waiting to be lifted into the healing waters, I must be willing to accept the love and mercy of Christ. When I avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my communication with him is strained, like trying to sign with crippled hands or speak with no voice. This great authority given to the Son of God is the same bestowed upon our priests through Jesus. We don’t have to wait to receive this healing. While our desire may be physical health, Christ desires so much more for us.
Christ is asking you right now, “Do you want to be well?”